While taste and smell help us either enjoy or stay away from certain things that we dislike or that could potentially be harmful to us, food included, it is not necessarily dangerous. The worst that can happen is that a senior may experience decreased taste and smell which could lessen their interest and/or enjoyment in eating. It is also dangerous if the senior lives alone and cannot detect odors such as natural gas or smoke.
Our sense of smell can potentially decrease after the age of 70. The reason it depletes is because of a loss of nerve endings in the nose or the fact that much less mucus is being produced there.
Mucus is disgusting if seen, but does play a vital role in our sense of smell. Mucus is what helps odors stay in our nose long enough to be detected by the nerve endings. On the flipside, it also eliminates those same odors from the nerve endings making room for new odors.
Certain personal habits can deteriorate a person’s sense of smell and taste. Most notable would be smoking. Disease and long-term exposure to harmful particles in the air such as toxic chemicals in factories or other such environments can also be a notable reason for the senses to diminish.
Per the NIH, if your senses of taste and smell have diminished, talk to your health care provider. There may be help. For example:
- Some medicines can alter your ability to smell and taste things. Changing your medicine may improve this.
- Sometimes changes in the way food is prepared, such as using different spices can help.
- To ensure your safety, look into buying products such as a gas detector that gives off alarms you can see and hear.
While you, the caretaker, are present some of the time to help a senior whose sense of taste and smell have diminished, it is best to know and to cue them in on certain factors that could help to save their life. All of this is done to show them that With Age Comes Respect.